NUTS AND VOLTS

Posted in: Nuts and Volts

The Next-Gen Temperature Sensor has been Developed

April 2015

April 6, 2015, PHYS.ORG – Engineers have designed a next-generation temperature sensor to improve the measurement of oceanic dynamics. The new fiber-optic sensor can register smaller temperature changes at around 30 times the speed of current commercial counterparts. The engineers achieved their desired results by attaching a small silicon pillar to the tip of the fused silica glass used in fiber optics. 


Ming Han (left) and Guigen Liu. Credit: Craig Chandler/University Communications


The team also created a novel signal-processing method that averages multiple wavelength peaks to reduce signal noise. These advancements will be essential to detect the subtle temperature changes found underwater, which will have a strong influence on oceanography and lead to a significant portfolio for other sensors. For more information visit PHYS.ORG.


Posted on 04/15 at 10:47 am
Posted in: Nuts and Volts

43rd Annual National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

April 2015

ALEXANDRIA, Va., April 9, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Inventors Hall of Fame and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will induct 14 trailblazers who have changed the world through their prolific inventions. This year's expanded three-day celebration, emceed by Mo Rocca, Emmy winning CBS Sunday Morning correspondent and Host of CBS The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation, will shine a spotlight on the men and women who are responsible for the evolution of innovation and technology. Their perseverance and passion serve as inspiration to every generation and continue to drive entrepreneurship and curiosity in order to brighten our nation's future.


"The 2015 Inductees risked everything to create what the general public now takes for granted," said Invent Now, Inc. CEO Michael Oister. "We are privileged to honor them during the 43rd Annual National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. We are optimists and catalysts for positive change and we challenge the next generation to reinvent America."

This year's celebration will honor life-changing achievements of innovators who gave us the blue light-emitting diode (LED), Bluetooth® wireless technology, the X-ray spectrometer, rear projection television and 3D applications, regenerated skin and many other avant-garde breakthroughs in medicine, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The criteria for Induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame requires candidates to hold a U.S. patent that has contributed significantly to the nation's welfare and the advancement of science and useful arts.

The 2015 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees include George Alcorn, John Burke Mary-Dell Chilton, Edith Clarke, Marion Donovan, Charles Drew, Jaap C. Haartsen, Thomas Jennings, Kristina M. Johnson, Paul MacCready, Nobel Prize winner Shuji Nakamura, Stanford Ovshinsky, Gary Sharp and Ioannis Yannas. For more information about this year's Inductees please visit our media room.

"I am so happy that the National Inventors Hall of Fame was invented. Otherwise I would not have the wonderful opportunity to host this three-day celebration of American inventiveness," said Mo Rocca, Emmy winning CBS Sunday Morning correspondent and Host of CBS The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation. "My hope is that the genius of these innovators and visionaries will rub off on me so that one day I will invent something worthy of induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame."

The three-day event series will include: 

National Inventors Hall of Fame Illumination Ceremony on May 11 at 5 p.m. at the National Inventors Hall of Fame on the USPTO Campus in Alexandria, Va. The 2015 Inductees will place their illuminated hexagons in the Gallery of Icons – the National Landmark to Innovation™. One by one, the Inductees will light the path of history throughout the nation while simultaneously shaping the future of innovation.

In addition, the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum will unveil the 2014 Inductees' artifacts and prototypes in a feature exhibit. Artifacts include the first-generation 3D Printer invented by Chuck Hull, William Bowerman's iconic waffle maker that produced a lighter and faster athletic shoe and Ashok Gadgil's UV Waterworks, which led the way for innovative solutions for providing clean water in developing nations.

National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on May 12 at 8:30 p.m. at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. This year's Master of Ceremonies, Mo Rocca, will lead the event as each of this year's Inductees are honored for their contributions to the prosperity and well-being of America and the world.

Innovation Echo: Tomorrow's Brightest Days panel on May 13 at 10:30 a.m. presented with the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Innovation giants will come together to illuminate America's path to innovation through a panel discussion comprised of some of the most influential technology leaders in America. The panel will be moderated by Mo Rocca and includes panelists from the National Inventors Hall of Fame, The Washington Post and USPTO.

To be a part of this grand celebration and honor world-renowned inventors that have changed the world, please call 800.968.4332 or visit www.invent.org/sponsors. The National Inventors Hall of Fame is presenting individuals and businesses the opportunity to connect with the most powerful people in the innovation and technology industries.

"This year's Inductees have expanded our horizons, technological and intellectual, and their contributions have driven economic growth in America. They exemplify the true spirit of invention, innovation and entrepreneurship," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee. "The USPTO's mission is to promote and encourage innovation, and this three-day event series of recognition will showcase the activities that fuel the American engine of innovation and provide a platform for future advances."

The National Inventors Hall of Fame's influence in driving innovation and its dedication to shaping the future continues well beyond the May Induction events. As part of their ongoing involvement in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Inductees will help to foster the development of America's next generation of innovators by helping to create the curriculum of Camp Invention. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Camp Invention is the nation's premier summer enrichment day camp that encourages innovation in youth through science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) content. Inductees will also help select winners of the annual Collegiate Inventors Competition, a national platform for showcasing the emerging ideas and technologies that will benefit our society in the future.
For more information about the National Inventors Hall of Fame, please visit http://www.invent.org

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About the National Inventors Hall of Fame:
The National Inventors Hall of Fame is the premier non-profit organization in America dedicated to honoring legendary inventors whose innovations and entrepreneurial endeavors have changed the world. Founded in 1973 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the National Council of Intellectual Property Law Association, the Hall of Fame will have 516 Inductees with its 2015 Induction. The National Inventors Hall of Fame is located in the atrium of the Madison Building on the campus of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, at 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, Va., Admission is free and the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The museum is closed Sundays, Mondays and federal holidays. Arrangements for the appearance of Mo Rocca made through Greater Talent Network, Inc., New York, NY. For more information on the National Inventors Hall of Fame, including Inductee nomination forms and a full listing of Inductees, please visit  http://www.invent.org .


About Invent Now:
The mission of Invent Now is to be a catalyst for change through recognizing inventors and invention, promoting creativity and advancing the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. Invent Now was founded in 1973 as the National Inventors Hall of Fame with the mission of recognizing and honoring the great inventors of our time. Now a supporting organization of Invent Now, Inc., the National Inventors Hall of Fame honors individuals in recognition of their patented inventions that have created entire industries and driven this nation's economic progress.


About the United States Patent and Trademark Office:
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the federal agency for granting U.S. patents and registering trademarks. In doing this, the USPTO fulfills the mandate of Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the Constitution that the legislative branch "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." The USPTO registers trademarks based on the commerce clause of the Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3). Under this system of protection, American industry has flourished. New products have been invented, new uses for old ones discovered, and employment opportunities created for millions of Americans. The strength and vitality of the U.S. economy depends directly on effective mechanisms that protect new ideas and investments in innovation and creativity. The continued demand for patents and trademarks underscores the ingenuity of American inventors and entrepreneurs. The USPTO is at the cutting edge of the nation's technological progress and achievement.


Posted on 04/15 at 10:37 am
Posted in: Developing Perspectives

The eBay Treasure Hunt

April 2015 Bryan Bergeron

Online sourcing from China is a real boon to electronics experimenters on a budget. Akin to flying on standby, if you're willing to wait anywhere from a week to a month for delivery, components and circuit modules can be had for less than the cost of shipping alone of similar items from domestic sources.


For example, I just finished building a heated mug for keeping my shaving brush and shaving cream warm. My initial design was based on four ceramic power resistors attached with thermal epoxy to the mug. A temperature sensor and Banana Pi (overkill, I know) running a PID (proportional, integrative, differential) algorithm and power MOSFET rounded out the simple resistor-based heater circuit. I priced out a simple thermal probe — with postage — at about $10 from a popular domestic supplier.

Thinking I might find a better deal on eBay, I searched for a similar sensor online. Not only did I find a thermal sensor, but it was attached to a complete Arduino-based PID control board with a three-digit LED temperature display and power MOSFET switch to drive the resistors. All this was for $11 — including shipping — from China. I found a dozen power ceramic resistors (also from China) for $3 including shipping. Needless to say, I ditched my original design which — by comparison — was simply cost prohibitive.

A month after making the original order for parts, I have a heated mug that works better than expected. I set the temperature to 110°F using the digital display for a guide, store my brush in the mug between latherings, and life is good. The PID controller drives the power MOSFET which cycles 12 VDC through the ceramic resistors. The thermal probe is attached to the side of the mug, providing temperature feedback. However, I can't really recommend the circuit to others because I have no way of knowing how long the circuit board will be available.

It turns out that if you’re using a no-name Chinese source for your parts, you’re fine — as long as you're building one-offs. However, when repeatability is an issue — such as when you or others need to create additional circuits — there's often no way to know if a vendor will have items in stock in the future, and often no clear way to find an alternate source for the same items.

For these reasons, you won't find many projects in Nuts & Volts that call for circuit boards sourced offshore from eBay. That's not to say that everything has to be purchased at your favorite domestic supplier — resistors are resistors, after all.

So, what’s the point of buying a completed circuit online? First, there’s a lot to be said for an experimenter who can integrate circuit modules. Second, who said experimentation in electronics had to involve low-level circuit designs? Sure, I wanted to work with the recently released Banana Pi and practice tuning my own PID algorithm, but my limited time and resources left no real options. 

Before you embark on that new project, you might want to take a look at what’s available from the overseas suppliers on eBay. Some things are worth the wait. NV


Posted on 03/15 at 8:18 am
Posted in: Nuts and Volts

Saelig’s Novel Anti-shock Components Isolate Vibration;  Double As Emergency Food Source.

April 2015

Fairport, NY.  April 1, 2015.  Saelig Company Inc. has introduced Gell-Low™, a series of novel bovine-based anti-vibration shock mounts, designed to reduce vibration and improve equipment stability and life.  Also suitable for mounting under mobile cameras on drones, these flexible parts, created from recycled bovine by-products, are produced in a variety of sizes and three colors: red (strawberry), green (lime), and black (liquorice).  A secondary beneficial aspect of these impact isolators is their function, if needed, as an emergency food source for disaster conditions.


Since 1988, Saelig’s engineers have been using their vast experience to solve all types of test and control problems, and now have turned their attention to solving pervasive shock and vibration control problems with Gell-Low Vibration Isolators (“Jiggles”), Gell-Low shock mounts (“Wobblers”), and other Gell-Low anti-vibration products.  Saelig’s engineers have selected just the right colors and have extensively taste-tested the flavors that will find universal use and demand.  In the past, Saelig has supplied solutions for a diverse variety of industries including R&D, quality control, education, power generation, vehicle manufacture, military, agriculture, industrial equipment, medical, and HVAC – and now for emergency situations.

An anti-vibration mount can reduce the level of noise and vibration frequency caused by everyday machinery.  Gell-Low vibration isolators are compression-mounted to reduce vibration and shock in portable equipment, and protect moving parts from damage.  The elimination of vibration, while absorbing energy can protect a wide range of components and devices from shock and possible destruction.  Gell-Low isolators can be helpful for isolating vibration in UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) applications like quadcopters. Because there is significant vibration caused by turbulence and the propulsion of the system itself, vibration damping like that offered by Gell-Low is crucial for obtaining smooth camera footage. 

Additionally, these shock mounts emit their design aromas (strawberry/lime/liquorice) to mask any offensive machine or oil odors.   These tasty yet practical Gell-Low anti-vibration/emergency food products are produced in a variety of sizes and shapes but can be sliced to suit various needs or taste. They have a shelf-life of more than 10 years and are sure to find wide acceptance and satisfy many engineering needs, as well as for mechanics hungry for the latest technology. 

Don’t be shocked! They are not available now from Saelig Company, Inc. since it is April 1st. For detailed specifications, free technical assistance, or additional information, please contact Saelig 888-7SAELIG, via email: info@saelig.com, or visit www.saelig.com


Posted on 04/15 at 8:00 am
Posted in: Nuts and Volts

Kickstarter: PiJuice

March 2015

The PiJuice is the ultimate module for all portable Raspberry Pi projects. Includes many fun maker projects and a solar power version too! #ProjectPiJuice


Features:

  • Onboard 1400 mAh "off the shelf" Lipo battery (with support for larger Lipo Battery up to 5000 mAH+) to last up to 24 hrs + in constant use!
  • Full UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) solution.
  • Integrated RTC (Real Time Clock)
  • On board intelligent on/off switch
  • Low power deep-sleep state with wake on interrupt/calendar event
  • Programmable multi-colored RGB led
  • Full power management API available to Raspberry Pi OS with auto shutdown capability when running low on batteries
  • Raspberry Pi HAT compatible layout, with on board EEPROM for easy plug and play operation
  • Low profile design, to fit inside lots of existing Raspberry Pi cases!

PiJuice makes the Raspberry Pi an independent, stand alone platform. By using intelligent power behaviour, the integrated battery will keep itself topped up when plugged in, and supply any extra power needed to the Pi as required.

The real time clock on board will let your Pi know what time it is even with no power input or internet connection. It will also manage soft shut down and a true low power sleep state and intelligent start up from the off state.

You will be able to always keep track of the charge levels with the built in tri-coloured RGB LEDs, and since the PiJuice will use up to just five of your GPIO pins (just power and I2C), the rest are free to diversify your project even more. The stacking header allows you to continue to use your existing HATs and add ons with PiJuice.

 

Kickstarter: PiJuice


Posted on 03/15 at 9:32 am
Posted in: Nuts and Volts

THE ROBOTICS INVENTORS CLUB™ (THE RIC)

February 2014

The Robotics Inventors club is designed to put the power of inventing a robot to solve a real world problem in the hands of these elementary students and give them an early and accurate depiction of the ins and outs of the engineering design process from a unique perspective. The group has to develop their idea, organize it into manageable sections, build and test the individual sections, then integrate them together as a team and prepare to present and talk about their solution to the public.


 

This revolutionary concept is the result of the Infamous Robotics LLC Robotics Expansion programs that teach children about the STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Math) fields using real robotics, not prepackaged kits. The robot the students build will amaze the world as it will show the capability of every child if we foster the inventor within them through our unique programs and courses.

How to get your child involved:  The Robotics Inventors Club (RIC), created by Infamous Robotics LLC, is a unique and revolutionary concept that puts the power of inventing in the child’s hands. The RIC is only open to students of Infamous Robotics LLC summer camps, who have completed all introductory levels, Robotics Expansion 1-4. Mentoring is provided by the Infamous Robotics team.

Purpose:  The purpose of this club is to formulate a unique group, a special group, unlike any being done at this age level. Members of the RIC will work as a team to engineer, design, test, build and ultimately present their robot during National Robotics Week in April.

The 2015 Robotics Inventors Club has chosen to build an autonomous robot to assist nurses with patients that have Ebola, called A.N.A. (Autonomous Nurse Assistant). The subsystem design and test is underway and the club members are planning on the prototype design to be completed soon.

 

Get more details about the RIC club at: http://www.infamousrobotics.com/club/

Get more details about Infamous Robotics LLC Summer camps: http://www.infamousrobotics.com/programs/summer-camps/


Posted on 02/15 at 3:15 pm
Posted in: Nuts and Volts

The Qduino Mini

March 2015

At only 14 years old, Quin has started up his own KickStarter with his Qduino Mini: Arduino Compatible + Battery Charger & Monitor. Quin not only has the support of his parents, he is also being backed up by SparkFun Electronics. The Qduino Mini is perfect to embed in your electronics projects, it's super small, inexpensive, has a battery connector & charger built-in, & a fuel gauge that can tell you when to charge the battery! 


The Qduino Mini is Arduino-compatible & 100% open source, hardware and software meaning that making and programming your first circuit is a breeze.  Hardware is hard, so we decided to make it a little bit easier.  The day that the first Qduino Mini ships, all of the design files, including EAGLE board files, schematic, and code will be released under an open source license.  Here's what it includes:
  • Battery Charger Circuit - just plug in USB and it charges the battery with the auto switching circuit - there's no extra charger needed & no digging the battery out of your project so you can charge & program at the same time over USB!
  • Battery Fuel Gauge - guessing on when your project runs out of juice?  We've got you covered - we have a simple monitor library for your battery so you can remind yourself when it needs a little extra juice.
  • Ultra small, Ultra thin, Ultra light - The Qduino Mini itself is 1in x 1.5in (2.6cm x 3.9cm) & 0.18oz (5 grams), perfect for quadcopters, drones or high altitude balloon projects.  Both the Qduino Mini and the batteries (LiPos) used to power the board fit are super compact & thin, just right for embedding in your projects.

 

[Source] Kickstarter


Posted on 02/15 at 3:12 pm
Posted in: Developing Perspectives

Starting Out: Avoiding the Equipment Acquisition Disorder (EAD)

March 2015 Bryan Bergeron

Starting out in electronics — as with any hobby — requires an investment of time, energy, and finances. This is especially true in the early stages, when unbridled enthusiasm blurs what expenditures on equipment and supplies are necessary and which are detours. It’s amazing how easy it is to succumb to the equipment acquisition disorder or EAD — even on a relatively tight budget.


EAD manifests itself in two ways. The first is in the number of pieces of equipment acquired — everything from a digital o’scope to a bench multimeter. The second is in the specifications of each piece of equipment, with a leaning towards an abundance of often unnecessary features.

For example, let’s say you start your adventure by setting up a workbench for microcontroller work. At the outset, you’ll be faced with determining what equipment is necessary, what’s nice to have, and what would simply add clutter to your workspace. If you’re like most novices, you’ll refer to advertisements, reviews, and perhaps join an online forum or two in hopes of determining exactly what you’ll need. Left to your own devices, you might accumulate a dozen different pieces of equipment — either new or used — as your budget allows.

Furthermore, you’ll be tempted to lean towards the feature-laden versions of each piece of equipment in the off chance that you might need those extra features one day — even though you’re unclear exactly what benefit you’ll derive from those features.

For example, let’s say you’re facing the choice of a $9 wall wart and a $300+ bench power supply. Even though the wall wart will probably be all you need for the first six months or so of your experimentation, you’ll be tempted to go for the bench supply. Then, there’s the issue of digital readout — number of digits, single readout for voltage and current, or dual digital readouts, currentlimiting features, and the like. You could easily end up with a power supply that not only requires more space on your bench, but that is so complex you’ll have to spend hours just learning to use every feature. Unless one of your goals is to master commercial power supplies, these are hours that you should have spent working directly with microcontrollers.

How do you avoid EAD? If you’re extremely lucky — or persistent — you’ll identify a mentor at a local electronics club who will take time to understand you, your plans, and real needs. The second best option is to identify a virtual mentor on one of the many online forums.

The challenge is finding a mentor that doesn’t have a hidden agenda linked to sales of equipment or supplies. Otherwise, you could end up with an even more severe case of EAD than if left on your own. I’ve found that the most credible online mentors emphasize ingenuity over equipment.

Another thing I’ve learned is that when exploring an unknown field, it’s better to learn one thing — be it a device or technique — thoroughly before moving on to something else. Taking this approach will naturally limit any EAD tendencies you might have.
Good luck experimenting. NV


Posted on 02/15 at 10:20 am
Posted in: Developing Perspectives

One-Upmanship

February 2015 Bryan Bergeron

An annual event in my old ham radio club was to hold a drawing for what began as a homebrew straight key gifted to a newcomer to the club. The original key — a momentary on switch — wasn't much more than a 3" copper bar, a thumb-tack contact, and a spring.


When the novice could afford a commercial key, he returned it to the original owner — with a few modifications. The improved key had a nice brass knob for the fingertips, and the flimsy base was replaced with a substantial slab of oak.

The key was passed on to the next needy club member in like fashion, with the expectation that it would be returned with some significant improvement. As I recall, by the fifth or sixth iteration of the gift/improvement process, the straight key had morphed into an iambic keyer with built-in sidetone oscillator.

That is, instead of pressing down on a fancy momentary open switch, the operator used the keyer by gently touching one pad with the thumb and the other pad with the index finger. Because finger motion was used instead of wrist and arm motion to operate the keyer, the result was much faster keying speeds. 

Benefits of iambic keyers vs. straight keys aside, the point is that this little game of one-upmanship was one of the highpoints of the club. Everyone looked forward to their chance to demonstrate their prowess in circuit and mechanical design. It certainly was more entertaining — and challenging — than simply building a circuit according to a magazine article or duplicating a circuit developed by another club member.

In different issues of Nuts & Volts, you'll find articles that build on the work of others. In some ways, these can be considered a form of one-upmanship. In other ways, these articles are opportunities for you to demonstrate your ability to one-up previous writers. Sure, go ahead and build one of the projects. But don't stop there. See what you can do to improve on it — whether that involves making it simpler and more elegant, or adding a few new features.

Better yet, pass your handiwork off to a fellow experimenter and challenge them to one-up your work. In the end, everyone wins. NV


Posted on 01/15 at 3:59 pm
Posted in: Nuts and Volts

A Valentine’s Day Surprise

February 2015

Nothing says "I Love You" more, than when it comes from the heart! This might just give you the inspiration you need if you just cant figure out what to get your significant other for valentines day. Do what we did in grade school, make something. Check out Henry's blog and see what he created from spare parts laying around. 


 


Posted on 02/15 at 3:24 pm
  • submit question
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Projects:

  • Wi-Fi on the Big Wire

    Classic embedded Wi-Fi web servers based on microcontrollers have met their match. The ACKme Numbat stuffs an ARM microprocessor, Wi-Fi radio, TCP/IP stack, UART, real time clock, multiple GPIO pins, analog-to-digital converters, PWM generators, SPI portals, 1 MB of serial Flash, and an I2C interface into a 0.8” x 0.6” x 0.11” SMT package. All you need is a PC serial port and a terminal emulator to gain access to the Numbat’s rich set of resources. Read More...

  • Serial I/O Data Interfaces: Part 2

    Get familiar with the high speed gigabit serial interfaces that dominate I/O today since we all use at least one of these regularly. Read More...

  • RF Oscillators

    Move up in frequency to the oscillators which make the signals that drive the ham’s wireless world. Read More...

  • PICAXE-PC Serial Communication — Part 1

    We’ll continue our experiments with the Prolific cable, but this time focus on sending data back and forth between a PICAXE processor and a PC. Read More...

  • Reader Questions Answered Here (05.2015)

    A question on op-amp accuracy, getting certified, and some tips on batteries. Read More...